Impervious Cover, the unknown enemy

Impervious cover is what is referred to as a surface that does not allow nutrients to pass through, which in most cases are urban and sometimes residential areas.  Based on personal experience and analysis, these impervious areas have become increasingly prevalent and have continued to expand and sprawl  across large areas.

The danger with impervious cover, as we know, is that they do not allow nutrients, water, or any other natural substance to pass through because of the asphalt, concrete, and other man-made surfaces which cannot be penetrated.  This causes a major problem for surrounding ecosystems because of the runoff of water into the sewers and waterways.  Major cities have an a very large impact and an even larger number of impervious surfaces. According to Elizabeth Brubac, “…with the advent of urban, they have become a key issue in habitat health” referring to the effect of impervious surfaces on the environment (Brubac, 2002).

http://jpl.sagepub.com/content/16/4/499.short

Doing a basic analysis of an urban landscape reveals the potential for many. In this image of a stereotypical urban landscape, there are only around 2-3 areas that have open grass and soil.  Without the effect of the soil to filter out and move it into the groundwater, there is a higher risk for flooding and water damage when it rains heavily in urban environments.  This can also lead to groundwater issues. Thinking about it logically, if there is no water to filter back into the groundwater system because of impervious surfaces, but it is continually taken by the urban areas, there will be a falloff at some point and there will be no more water in that specific area.  Besides methods such as bio-filters or rain gardens, in what ways could these impervious be made less-impervious, and is it possible that people will want to change their minds about deeply ingrained development practices?

For the Children : Blog 3

What parent wouldn’t want their children to have a secure and safe place in our uncertain world?  During our group facilitation this week, Professor Tippett asked the group I was in if we should market environmental problems as a looming hardship for our kids.  If you think about it, some of the people that are unwilling to recycle and to pay heed to environmental concerns, do pay heed to bettering and enhancing their children’s lives.  This thought is so prevalent in our society with parents (especially in a financial sense) hoping that “my kids will be better off than I was”.   If we could use this idea, we could make a better world for society as a whole.  Maybe if we marketed environmental problems and responsibilities while at the same time catering to peoples’ primal sense of species survival and parenthood, people would be more willing to change.  We could do this by choosing a specific target, such as promoting organic and locally sourced foods.  An example of this is an article I found on Treehugger called Swedes Show How Eating Organic Eliminates a Family’s Pesticide Load.  The article talks about an experiment done by the Swedish Environmental Research Institute that takes a non-organic eating, Swedish family, and tests the pesticide levels in their bodies.  After a week of eating organic food, they were then tested again (Treehugger).  The subjects were found to have a dramatic decrease (by a factor of about 9.5) in the amount of pesticides in their bodies (Treehugger).  The Mom of the family is quoted saying “’Overall, you think about the kids. There were a whole number of chemicals removed from my kids’ bodies. And I don’t want them back”’(Treehugger).  If we could get people to start seeing not just organic food, but other environmental solutions as incredibly beneficial to the long-term well-being of their children, great strides could be made.  How differently would Easter Island, or any of the societies we have talked about, have fared if society had treated the environment with care, for the sake of their children?  Could collapse have been prevented?  Could measures like this further promote collaboration like that of Kristianstads Vattenrike (case study 5)?  We will never know for sure if doing this would have worked or if it will promote significant change for the modern world, but we can at least try.  What do we have to lose? The environment is already deteriorating at an alarming rate, so anything to combat it should be considered.

Works Cited:

Treehugger. Streeter, A. K. “Swedes Show How Eating Organic Eliminates a Family’s Pesticide Load.” Living. Treehugger, 7 May 2015. Web. 26 Feb. 2016. <http://www.treehugger.com/family/swedes-show-how-eating-organic-nearly-eliminates-your-pesticide-load.html>.

Rain Rain Go Away

Good Afternoon friends!!

I hope everyone is gearing up for spring break. I know I am.

Yesterday in class I was really struck by the conversation about the rain gardens and how difficult it was to convince some people of how easy and great of a solution this was. However, when professor Tippett began to explain how it is we educate people and get them on board it became so clear that maybe radical isn’t always the answer. So we stat to ask the question what is the best way to get people on our side ad I think we nailed it on the head with the discussion of building relationships with the right people a the right time.  I think the class time yesterday really convinced me that while radical groups get a lot of media attention and public eye that maybe that is not the best approach to getting real change put into place.  As an advocate for conservation and sustainability I wouldn’t want to force people into a decision they hated or didn’t agree with based on my rash and vulgar actions. I would want to convince and show them why something I see is so beautiful and amazing and why it should be protected by their actions. I want them to respect the nature I’m trying to preserve just as much as I do and gain an ally not an enemy.

Coming from an environmentalist point of view the rain gardens seem to be such an awesome solution to a common problem faced when building new infrastructures and parking lots. I was personally amazed how beautiful and functional they were, especially at filtering the water so that the runoff became crystal clear, I mean wow nature is awesome! So my question to you guys is if these gardens are such a functional and beautiful solution why isn’t everyone doing it? I found an interesting video on rain gardens from Sustainable World, Enjoy 🙂

Relationships help to successfully address problems

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During Thursday’s class we talked about the importance of building relationships with different individuals and organizations to stimulate/facilitate environmental change. Environmental issues have a greater chance of being addressed/solved when local stakeholders, governments and other environmental organizations join together to contribute a multitude of ideas.

The Ecomuseum Kristenstads Vattenrike (EKV) serves as a municipality organization that works on joining different groups together to address an environmental problem that concerns all of the groups involved. In Walker and Salt’s book, Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World, the authors describe the purpose of the EKV when they state “ By serving as a forum that brings together individuals and organizations to discuss emerging issues, build consensus, provide feedback and share views, the EKV serves a valuable role in building trust and enhancing the resilience of social-ecological systems that is the KV.” I thought this statement described the main role of the EKV and how it serves the environment. It shows that the only way to get things done is through a diversity of ideas that can only come from a variety of groups/individuals from different backgrounds. The EKV acts as a median between all these groups, so they know how to talk and build trust between different groups. They understand that they have to tailor their conversation to fit the interest of farmers differently than if they were speaking to a government official. Trust between different groups is what leads to success when addressing/solving environmental problems.

The EKV also understands the need to build relationships before a problem arises because as Walker and Salt state “ If discussions on collaborations are only initiated once a conflict has arisen it’s much more difficult to reach consensus.” The EKV uses various activities to prevent this. These activities link together individuals from different groups to establish trust with each other and the EKV. Building trust is important because it established allies that will support you when you require them, especially if they know your opinions on various issues and you know theirs. This shows that you are willing to listen to their ideas and do whatever you can to help them as well. Allies will stand with you when you propose change to fix an environmental issue because they are confident in your organization and accountability.

The Nature Conservancy is another organization that builds trust among various groups, such as local governments, local stakeholders and private companies to help achieve their mission of conserving the lands and waters of the earth (The Nature Conservancy, 2016). They believe in building trust and partnering with so many different groups to have what they call a “diversity of knowledge” (The Nature Conservancy, 2016). This organization understands that they need these relationships to receive a diversity of ideas from people of different backgrounds to protect the earth. A diversity of knowledge allows for different viewpoints to be valued and heard, so that a solution can be reached quickly and efficiently. I have attached below a link to a video by The Nature Conservancy to show how all their partners are important to them (you don’t have to watch the whole video, but I would recommend that you at least watch the first minute). This organization understands that having a diversity of ideas in a business is just as important as having diversity in nature.

Relationships with various groups are a must because only when groups come together do we see change and environmental problems are effectively addressed. So now that we know these relationships are a fundamental part of success, how do we maintain them?

Link to video:

http://www.nature.org/photos-and-video/video/diversity-we-are-the-nature-conservancy

Sources:

The Nature Conservancy. Web. 2016.

http://www.nature.org/?intc=nature.tnav

Walker and Salt. Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World. 2006. Pg. 125-138.

Regarding Thursday’s Example…

Today in class we talked about an example of grassroots advocacy here on the Rappahannock, and some lessons learned in trying to enact change at the local government level through education.

The building blocks I described took a whopping 4.5 years to implement…but there is more to the story.

In next locality where we went to advocate for the same code changes, the process took only 18 months.  That was the City of Fredericksburg….and instead of having to invest extensive time building the base and making the case, we were invited by City Council to lead the process.

So for those who may have been taken aback or even disappointed at the length of time often required to enact change…take heart. The investment of time in building relationships, educating, and demonstrating is like the years spent cultivating a tree that then starts to yield fruit – and, just like a tree,  it is truly rewarding.

– JPT

Here is an editorial from the local paper about the project
BAYFELLOWS
–  Free Lance – Star

Soil Salinization

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Soil salinization two

At the end of almost every lecture we come to some solutions to the problems, and almost every time education is one of them. We saw it in our most recent reading, where Walker and Salt discuss the addition of museums on sights of destruction, allowing the public to not only see what is happening to the environment, but to offer education on the subject.

Every class we discuss new topics, and new problems, and new solutions, but so often times I find myself so stuck at the beginning of the lecture on the problem. We hear about all the ways we are destroying our Earth, and every time I am left so shocked, because these topics are new to me. In so many ways I am just like the public we are trying to educate. Here are these issues that are so alarming, yet I have never heard of them, until this class. As a junior in college I think to myself, why is this the first time I am learning about these issues. I believe this is how much of the public feels, we want to learn, learning is in our nature, we want to know what is happening to our environment. Yet it is the next step that seems to be the difficult one, making changes to fix what we have destroyed.

Not being from an Environmental Science background, one of the topics we talked about on Tuesday really caught me by surprise. Soil Salinization. I had never even considered that salt was making water less available for uptake by plant roots (Soil Quality Resource Concerns). If we are going to be prepared to feed 9 billion people we cannot allow salinization to restrict our options for growing crops in a given land area, or to degrade the quality of shallow ground water and surface water resources, such as ponds. Unlike some of the topics that we discuss though there is a solution to reducing the severity and extent of soil salinity through water management practices (Soil Quality Resource Concerns).

 

Citations:

http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/nrcs142p2_053151.pdf

http://labmodules.soilweb.ca/salinity/

 

 

Change Happen in the Context of Relationships

This idea was talked about in class today, relationships are what allows change to happen from the bottom up. This made me start to think, what sparks a change? What pushes people to want to change? Yes, education allows people to begin to see a difference or understand why we should change, but it is not the catalyst.

I specifically looked at the Dark Sky Foundation, I did my NGO project on them. When I looked at how they go about changing policy, they had a different approach then Friends of the Rappahannock. They start by getting people to want to change. People have to change the light fixtures on the outside of their own homes and businesses. Then people are shown how to approach others in the neighborhood in a respectful and educated manner.  This does require  relationships; however, is it the same relationship that is build between perfect strangers? Is the difference between the two types of relationships something that effects change?

But back to the original question, what is the catalyst for change? What pushes people to want to change? Again, looking at the Dark Sky Foundation it is easy to see that helping to prevent light pollution is better for human health, safety, and animals. So do different aspects speak to different people? Is that why there are so many organizations that do the same thing?

We are all environmental science majors or sustainability minors, so how do we make sure that our voice gets heard? How do we make sure that we leave a mark on the planet that makes it  more sustainable for future generations? I do not know how many people are part of NGOs, or sign petitions, but take your time. Read paperwork. Make informed choices. Make connects that will help other strive to these same goals!

Below is a link for petitions that are for environmental change. You should totally check them out! Maybe sign a few!

https://www.change.org/topics/environment

 

http://darksky.org/get-involved/

Blog #3: Australia

The main focus of Chapter 13 of Jared Diamond’s Collapse and Case Study 2 of Walker and Salt’s Resilience Thinking is the fragility of Australia’s natural ecosystems. Global climate change has adversely affected the ecological viability of the continent, but human actions are directly responsible for the vast majority of the environmental degradation. When the continent was colonized by European settlers, the destruction began.

Australian natural resources were severely exploited for the profit of Europeans. Forests were decimated in order to clear land for agriculture and for exporting wood products. Land that was covered by native plant species was also torn up to clear space for agricultural purposes, both for horticultural and for animal agriculture.

The Europeans introduced numerous non-native and invasive plant and animal species to the Australian ecosystem. One of these introduced species was the rabbit. Europeans tried, and failed, to introduce tame, white rabbits four times before introducing the Spanish rabbit. Since their introduction, the rabbits have taken over vast expanses of the Australian land mass. Some humans now see the rabbits as a nuisance. Collapse went into graphic detail about the measures one man has taken to rid his property of the rabbits.  His methods includes such inhumane measures as bulldozing burrows and throwing sticks of dynamite into the rabbits’ homes.

Reading this portion of the book, as well as the section about the slaughtering of kangaroos for meat and pelts, was quite upsetting to me. I believe that the book is trying to use these stories and asides in order add to its arguments, but I found these sections to be completely unnecessary. The book is supposed to provide useful information about the state of the natural environments and ecological systems of the world, not regale the readers with horrendous tales of lagomorph and marsupial murder.

kangarooI found this week’s reading difficult to get through, due to the levels of violence and destruction portrayed.

For further information about Australian ecosystems, please visit the links below:

http://www.australianecosystems.com.au/

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.453.3525&rep=rep1&type=pdf

http://www.ausecosystems.org.au/

 

The Everglades: Was this our STOP sign?

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We talk frequently in class about the “warning signs” involved with the collapse of previous civilizations. Reading about the Everglades and seeing the videos in class made me think that perhaps we have gone too far as a country into the consumer mindset and environmental entitlement. When the level of destruction to the area became apparent there was no collapse because, unlike the other civilations we studied, this Country has a diverse economy and access to plenty of resources. The ecological collapse of an ecosystem would not cripple the whole society. But it should have been the equivalent warning sign of the last tree falling on the island nations from our readings.  Seeing the slow and lengthy response to the cleanup effort made it seem like there was no rush when in fact there was a sense of urgency. Destruction like this, or for example the decimation of the Gulf of Mexico region should have been enough to shock the American people into a more conservationist mindset but there was no drastic shift in ideology. Our Country is headed down a road destined to lead to complete overconsumption of our resources and ecological events like the destruction of the Everglades serve as STOP signs on this road. Places where we need to stop and reflect, looking left and right to look for obstacles, dangers and possible alternate routes. Upon reaching these indicators we keep blowing through without pausing to look and one time it may lead to a critical accident. Even with a Country as diverse and wealthy as this one there are areas where ecological, or financial disasters could prove to be critical. We need resilience to keep us from crashing as these checkpoints, to act as the cars bumper and keep us insolated from a lot of the damage. But more importantly we need to stop and look at the path we are going down and see if we cant find a better way.

The Four Steps to Bliss

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This past week as we discussed the 4 part plan to help the world achieve a more sustainable lifestyle,

  1. Science and Technology Deployment
  2. Distribution of Animals, Fuels, and Waste
  3. Local Food Systems
  4. Regulations

 

I found a more intriguing interest with the 4th step, Regulations.  Without Regulations factories, power plants, and other big corporations would still be dumping raw sewage into open water systems.  The Chesapeake Bay would still smell like an backyard dump where someone was too lazy to put it in a trashcan.   Agencies like The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are the key reason for why Virginia’s and most of America’s wildlife is staying relativity pollution free.  Although there are certain things that the agencies can’t control like none point-source pollution.

As the world is facing many difficult and different environmental challenges, the use of regulations should be our first and most versatile tool.  although it’s been shown before in the past that when the people rise up and voice their opinions, change does happen.  But with issues like the Pacific gyre garbage patch and climate change the government agencies need to step in and set strict regulations to prevent to these positive feed-back loops, like ice caps melting for example.  Following these strict regulations the general public’s lifestyle will change. This change will help the average citizen from leading a unsustainable lifestyle.

Having a first person view point of how hard and long it is for regulations and permits to be made and approved, makes the idea that through regulations we can change to a more sustainable world, seem like a lifetime.  Trying to improve the environment’s quality while not putting restricts too tight on big corporations, is extremely difficult.  Although without the other 3 steps in the plan a true sustainable world isn’t possible.